Why Isn’t Cannabis Completely Legal Yet?

The road to medical cannabis legalization in the United States has been long and hard fought. While medical cannabis and cannabis derivatives are legal in a number of American states, it is still illegal on the Federal level, which technically means it is illegal throughout the United States.

Given the recognized benefits of medical cannabis and its legality throughout most other Western countries, it may be baffling to outside observers why America continues to spend billions of dollars suppressing it.

Here are a few reasons why medical cannabis is still illegal in the United States:

1.) Institutional racism

The first serious controls on cannabis were instituted in order to make it easy to arrest and harass Mexican immigrants and Americans of Hispanic descent in the 1920s and 1930s when their numbers started to increase. Even today, marijuana laws affect minorities disproportionately and are seen by law enforcement as a convenient way to pin down and imprison those from minority groups.

2.) Cultural and demographic inertia

A significant number of people from older generations still buy into the “marijuana is bad” narrative that was prevalent not too long. It’s historically difficult to convert older generations from ways of thinking that were common when they were younger, and many may still not get the full picture of what anti-cannabis laws actually mean.

3.) Opioid industry lobbying

Pharmaceutical companies that produce opioid drugs widely used for pain relief and other applications have been recently been called out for intentionally lobbying against medical cannabis. Cannabis products such as CBD oil are now widely recognized to be about as effective as traditional opioids without their potential for abuse.

However, as opioids are highly addictive, they are a major source of sales and revenue for a number of large pharmaceutical companies. The relative low-cost of pharmaceutical-grade opium from American-influenced Afghanistan has also been noted to have encouraged more opioid production from pharmaceutical companies the world over due to low overhead.

4.) Cannabis is seen as an addictive social ill

Thanks to decades of propaganda, cannabis is often associated with underground and outlaw culture.  This same propaganda has also laid the blame squarely on cannabis as a highly-addictive drug, on the same level as heroin or methamphetamines.

While the addictiveness of cannabis cannot be denied, especially with regards to its psychological addictiveness, alcohol is also highly addictive and has been demonstrated to have a wider range of negatives to society compared to cannabis – despite being legal.

Given the low addiction risk of cannabis compared to alcohol, cannabis continued illegal status is a testament to the power of government propaganda.

5.) Cannabis advocates themselves are giving cannabis a poor image

While people across all walks of life and across the political spectrum regularly use cannabis, a vocal minority of cannabis advocates has fully embraced pseudoscience, bad history, and fuzzy logic in their quest to convince others of the benefits of cannabis.

While the truth should have been sufficient, this very visible group of cannabis advocates have undoubtedly set back legalization with their overzealousness and specious thinking by turning off otherwise reasonable people who were on the fence on medical marijuana. This is especially important to consider given that cannabis already has a bad reputation, to begin with.

6.) Medical cannabis research is an exceptionally difficult field

There are over 500 chemical compounds in the cannabis plant and thousands of different breeds and strains, each carrying its own different ratios of these chemicals. To add to that complexity, different doses of specific strains can act differently on each person. And that’s not even considering the methods by which the cannabis is administered.

The underground nature of cannabis use has additionally made it difficult to verify decades worth of research or draw any definite conclusions for it. Add to the fact that new social norms and stronger strains may very well invalidate the results of these older studies, which were often done with shaky methodology, to begin with.

This all makes it easy for anti-cannabis lobbyists to block moves to legalize cannabis, simply because of the difficulty of drawing absolutely definite conclusions from these studies and meta-studies.

While it seems inevitable that cannabis will eventually become legal at the Federal level for some uses in the near future, it may be a while before we see true acceptance.

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